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Sullivan BOE OKs bid for North renovations

April 30th, 2012 10:58 pm by Rick Wagner

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Board of Education has voted to recommend a low bid of nearly $757,000 for renovations and an addition to Sullivan North High School.

In addition, the group Monday evening got its first look at a draft 2012-13 school budget that is more than $6.8 million short.

“This is our starting point,” Director of Schools Jubal Yennie told the BOE as Business Manager Leslie Bonner presented the draft budget.

Yennie said the preliminary budget numbers would be refined in weeks to come.

“That back page number ($6.88 million) we must fix,” he said.

However, Yennie said he made it clear to the Sullivan County Commission last year that the school system would need budget help this year.

The school system has taken about $1.9 million from its fund balance for the current year. Bonner said the projection is that $100,376 will be returned to the fund balance, but she and Yennie said the fund balance — which the state recommends be at least 3 percent of the operational budget or about $2.6 million to $2.7 million — can’t take that kind of hit again for 2012-13.

Not included in the projected shortfall are any raises for support staff, although teachers would get a 2.5 percent raise on the Tennessee portion of their pay. Yennie said an across-the-board teacher 2.5 percent would cost $1.8 million to $2 million.

“We need to do that,” BOE Chairman Ron Smith said of support staff raises.

Cost savings from the closing of Cedar Grove, Kingsley and Brookside elementary schools also have not been factored into the draft, which Yennie said would be lower at the BOE’s May 7 regular meeting.

The draft budget revenues are based on a projected 2012-13 enrollment of 10,779. The system has been losing 300 to 400 students a year the past few years, Yennie said, although this year’s graduating seniors is a smaller group than the incoming kindergarten class.

In the called meeting Monday, the BOE voted 7-0 to recommend the County Commission approve the low base bid of $736,200 from Kingsport-based Goins Rash Cain Inc., plus $20,000 for alternate one — an enclosed area for North Middle School students to get to the cafeteria — for a total of $756,800. Yennie said that instead of accepting the low bids on two other alternates, which are converted existing spaces into different classroom space, the school system maintenance staff will do that work.

The funding will be $400,000 in Basic Education Program reserves, usable only for one-time expenses, and about $350,000 from leftover Qualified School Construction Bond money from Holston Middle and Emmett Elementary projects.

In August, a grades 6-8 North Middle will open within North High, which now houses a grades 7-8 Ketron Intermediate. North High will become grades 9-12, and a renovated and expanded Ketron Elementary — formerly Ketron Intermediate — will become a grades pre-K-5 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) facility.

They will be the only county schools in the North zone, although Brookside in August is to become the STEM platform school operated jointly by Kingsport and the county school systems.

Included in the draft budget is $225,000 for four county teachers at the STEM school staff of eight, plus $275,000 in operating costs, including half the principal’s pay.

In a work session following the meeting, the BOE reviewed the draft budget of almost $91.5 million and revenues of almost $84.6 million, a shortfall approaching $6.9 million. That compares to the current year budget of $89.4 million.

“This was not unanticipated,” Yennie said of the tight budget. “Commission’s going to have to help us this year.”

Property tax revenues are projected to decrease almost $780,000 to $22.6 million, BEP funding is to decrease by $704,000 to $39.1 million, while federal funding in the general purpose school fund will decline $1.4 million to $2.9 million — including the end of the Education Jobs Bill funding.

The only revenue plus was a more than $440,000 increase in sales tax, to almost $12.2 million, but the aggregate effect was revenue of almost $84.6 million — down $2.9 million.

On the expenditure side, the 2.5 percent raise on the state portion of teacher pay scales would be almost $1.02 million, a 9 percent health insurance cost increase starting Jan. 1 would be more than $327,000, and the STEM teachers $225,000, although Yennie said he hoped for a net gain systemwide of only one or two teachers including the STEM positions.

On the bright side, Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System rates are improving and will save an estimated $175,500.

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